The New York City police department and Universal Studios have confiscated approximately 1,000 bootlegged copies of “Jurassic Park” that are being sold at $ 10 apiece on the streets of that city and Philadelphia.
“What we’re confiscating are cheap, poorly made copies that are shot from a hand-held camcorder,” said Bill Baker, with the Motion Picture Association of America. “There are not any good replications, and the real loser is the purchaser.”
Summer traditionally is a hot time for video bootleggers, but this kind of business customarily starts on the East Coast and tends to stay centered there.
“For one thing, New York is a much more pedestrian-oriented city,” said Karen Elliott, U’s director of anti-piracy administration. “This stuff is sold on the streets. There are not many people who walk in Los Angeles.”
Bootlegged tapes do not usually start showing up in L.A. until films hit pay-per-view channels in hotels, she noted.
Baker said the MPAA is working in coordination with police and, to date, has recently confiscated illegal replications of “Cliffhanger,””Dave” and a few copies of “Last Action Hero.”
“What we’ve found is that many of the sellers are immigrants trying to make a few bucks,” Baker said.
If caught, those peddlers can face up to a year in prison, although the primary goal of these crackdowns is to confiscate the tapes.
“Universal has a civil seizure program which works pretty well,” he said. “Our efforts working with the police are to bring felony criminal charges.”
Those most likely to face criminal charges are store owners who sell bootlegged copies.
“When we bring criminal charges against the peddlers, they tend to disappear, ” Baker noted.
Elliott said her office already has been receiving calls from people who have bought the tapes and believed them to be legitimate.
“The tapes are sold with a reasonable facsimile on the cover with shrink wrapping,” she said. “But when people get them home, they discover the tape is blank or the quality is very bad. We believe that ultimately reflects badly on us.”
As the weeks goby after a film’s initial release, both Elliott and Baker said that the quality of bootlegged tapes tends to get better.
“But so far we’ve not seen any tapes that appear to be copied from pre-screening copies,” Baker said.
He said there have been problems of pirate versions copied from tapes the studios send out for viewing around Oscar time.
“This is really the critical time, though,” he said. “‘Jurassic’ was clearly the big film that got it started this summer.”